A crowd of about 40 gathered in the drizzling rain outside Juneau’s federal building this afternoon to protest Royal Dutch Shell’s oil rig, the Polar Pioneer. The vessel left Seattle on Monday after weeks of public outcry.
Alaska Climate Action Network organizer Elaine Schroeder passes out a rainbow of signs, handwritten slogans in splashes of yellow and blue, to people arriving at the rally.
One reads, “Alaska moms for a renewable future: there is no creature more dangerous than a mother bear protecting her cubs.”
“So that’s one of our more adorable signs,” Schroeder says.
Shell’s massive oil rig, the Polar Pioneer, is now sailing to the Chukchi Sea. In May, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave conditional approval to the company to start exploratory drilling this summer off Alaska’s Arctic coast.
“And we’re saying no to Shell. You’ve got to keep the oil in the ground. What we’re talking about here is extreme extractions,” she says.
Concerns from environmental groups include the likelihood of a spill, the impact on coastal Native communities and climate change.
“We want renewable energy sources and that’s what our money should be going for,” Schroeder says.
In a statement, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the Polar Pioneer will meet “rigorous safety standards” during its exploration.
Some of the signs at the rally are taped to kayak paddles, a nod to the kayaktivists in Seattle. Lorena Guillen and her husband are Seattleites on vacation.
“We’re trying to see the glaciers before they disappear,” Guillen says.
They were active in the protests down south but weren’t expecting to spend their trip this way. Then they saw a flyer in a Heritage Coffee shop.
“It was really nice to see the sign in the coffee shop because it was like, ‘Yes, this is exactly the fight we need to continue and not give up.'”
Mid-rally, a car swerves into a handicapped spot. The vehicle has a large wood and paper structure strapped to the top. Elaine Schroeder explains:
“Right now what just drove by was a replica of the Polar Pioneer,” she says. “Only we call it the ‘Polar Profiteer’ rather than the Polar Pioneer.”
Schroeder says the “Polar Profiteer” will make another appearance at the Fourth of July parade. But the group hopes the Polar Pioneer doesn’t arrive to its next destination.
The oil rig is expected to arrive in Unalaska later next week.